P for Physical and Practical and Perfectionism
Clearly some of the causes of Sprite’s depression were anxiety about the future and therefore an aversion to taking any risks and her perfectionism which sometimes prevented her from starting any activity which she did not think she could complete perfectly.
This was what had caused her apprehension about the Guard Duty Black Dog.
I found some very helpful articles about perfectionism
Carol Peters describes Dr Linda Silverman’s attitude to perfectionism in an article which can be read at http://thescotts.topcities.com/perfectionism.html
Perfectionism is an inevitable part of the experience of being gifted.
Silverman believes that perfectionism needs to be appreciated as a two-edged sword that has the potential for propelling an individual toward unparalleled greatness or plummeting one into despair. The secret to harnessing its energy is to appreciate its positive force, learn how to set priorities and to avoid imposing one’s own high standards on others.
Dr Silverman says
Perfectionism is an integral part of Giftedness because:
1. The sine qua non of intelligence is the capacity for abstract reasoning, and perfectionism is an abstract concept. An affinity for perfectionism is as natural to the gifted as a love of mathematics or literature.
2. Perfectionism is a function of asynchrony: gifted children set standards according to their mental age rather than their chronological age.
3. Many gifted children have older playmates so they tend to set standards appropriate for their older friends.
4. Many gifted children have enough forethought to enable them to be successful in their first attempts at mastering any skill. They come to expect success and fear failure since they have had little experience with it.
Dr Linda Silverman’s article can be purchased from the Gifted Development Center at http://www.gifteddevelopment.net/xcart/home.php?cat=252&sort=orderby&sort_direction=0&page=2
There is a useful A PowerPoint presentation by Kevin Kendall at http://www.lexedu.org/Gifted/08-09/ProblemsWithOrganizationProcrastinationAndPerfectionism.ppt#1
And Shaun Hately discusses the connection between perfectionism and depression in Perfectionism and the Highly Gifted Child which can be read on Hoagies website at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/perfectionHG.htm
It looked like a scene from the movie ‘Signs’.
Sprite was sitting reading to Cute Version Just- Needs -More -Hugs Black Dog and they were both wearing silver foil hats.
“What on Earth are you doing?” I asked.
“Well,” said Sprite “if Black Dog and I are not aliens, we need to shield our thoughts from them and then our positive thoughts won’t get hijacked and turned into negative thoughts.”
“I have a much better method of shielding your thoughts,” I said. It is another S for Spiritual S.I.P. It is by thinking about things which are good and positive and lovely. You can find it in the book of Philippians in the Bible.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Meditate on These Things
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:6-9 New King James Version
“What can we do to help Black Dog when he feels like an alien who has been dumped here?” asked Sprite.
Image Jo Freitag
I knew the answer to this one. I remembered our own five year old reading over my shoulder as I read an article about whether you should tell a child they are gifted. The article concluded that, in most cases, you should tell the child because they probably felt as if they were different anyway and needed an explanation.
“Alien Black Dog needs to know that he is not alone – there are others like him and he needs to understand some of the characteristics of gifted people which, though they seem very strange to people in the general population, are ‘normal for gifted’, as Lesley Sword would say.”
“There are some excellent handout note articles on Lesley Sword’s Gifted and Creative Services Australia website http://giftedservices.com.au/handouts/index.html
Intensity and sensitivity, introversion and overexcitabilities are all common for gifted people.” I said.
“And there are also some excellent books for students such as The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith and James Deslisle. I’ll see what I can find in the Gifted Resources library.”
Sprite and I spent the afternoon playing with Artrage http://www.artrage.com/ and Jing http://www.jingproject.com/ experimenting with shades, layers and different artists’ materials to investigate what we needed to do to find a silver lining for a grey cloud.
This was one of the exercises in my teaching unit Blue skies, rainbows and silver linings – Symbols of hope and optimism http://giftedresources.org/jo/lessonplans.htm
I showed Sprite a reference to an explanation of the cause of the appearance (or not) of a cloud’s silver lining
“When we view thick, irregular and scattered clouds such as those of the cumulus family between us and the sun, the edges often shine brightly. This is called the cloud’s silver lining, which under certain conditions near sunrise or sunset can become a golden lining. The cloud’s edges are much thinner than its main body; thus they are more efficient at scattering light forward toward our eyes. When the contrast is great, the edges appear brilliant and metallic in appearance.
In contrast to the silver lining, when we are between the sun and cloud, the cloud’s central portion reflects more light than the edges, which now appear relatively dark. “
“So it depends where we view it from whether a cloud has a silver lining!” I said.
I told her about my secondary school English teacher, Margaret Reeves, who used to say “I LOVE days like this – there are so many shades of grey in the sky!”
I did not appreciate the sentiment at the time but the thought has stayed with me and helped me to enjoy winter days now.
I went get us some hot chocolate and scones.
When I came back I found Sprite delivering a lecture to Puddleglum and the bedraggled SAD seasonally affected Black Dog about atmospheric optics and perspective using our art works as visual aids.
The email from Sally-Anne McCormack arrived at a perfect time.
Just as Sprite had been asking whether there were any ways to help the Puddleglummish Black Dog think the right way and I had promised to find out, Sally-Anne’s newsletter arrived.
“The psychologist, Sally-Anne McCormack has a program called Stomp out the ANTs and her book of the same name will be available in December.” I said to Sprite.
Her website is at http://www.sally-annemccormack.com.au/
This is what it says about Stomp out the ANTs
Stomp out the ANTs Programs provide the students with a ‘feelings’ vocabulary, teach some ways of replacing Automatic Negative Thoughts with more positive thoughts, show them to look for “evidence” when making assumptions about situations, etc. This is done using a variety of different methods which may include worksheets, conversations, role playing, debates, writing, reading and other means. There are often “homework” activities such as filling in a mood diary for the period of the program to be able to track the changes in thoughts and feelings over this time. It also helps the student to focus on their own particular difficulties so they can address them.
The author of this program – Sally-Anne McCormack – is a registered psychologist, an experienced teacher, and a parent of 4 children and adolescents. Her interests include the prevention and treatment of depression, dealing with all educational issues (eg. assessment, giftedness, counselling, behaviour management, etc.) and a variety of other issues that are relevant for children and adolescents. She has private practices in the Eastern suburbs (Blackburn and Burwood East) and is available for private sessions.
“Look,” said Sprite “Sally-Anne McCormack has a frog like my FrOG friend.”
The first step in our S.I.P. program for overcoming the negative influence of the Black Dog of depression on Spite, as I am a Christian, was to talk to our pastor and his wife and ask their advice.
I also asked several friends to pray that we would be led to solutions to Sprite’s depression and that we would all grow stronger and closer to the Lord. A couple of them are already mentors for her.
I was impressed with the degree of insight Sprite had already demonstrated about the possible causes and possible solutions
One of these was lack of self esteem and being awkward in social situations.
We looked for a vibrant church youth group which held social events and outings as well as Bible studies which would welcome and encourage her.
“Suppose the glass vase on the table contained a powerful potion for overcoming the bad things Black Dog sometimes does to you…” I said.
“Yes?” said Sprite
“Would you drink it?”
“I would want to know that it really was what you said and that it wasn’t poison or something.”
“That’s good. I am glad you are thinking wisely about it. Let’s just say you know it is safe to drink.”
“How full do you think the glass is?”
“About half full” said Sprite (OK – I know I set her up for that answer!)
“What do you think Puddleglum would say?”
Sprite is a clever cookie. She could see where this conversation was going already.”
“He would say it is half empty and he wouldn’t want to drink it because, if he did, there wouldn’t be any left if he needed it another time.”
“What is wrong with thinking like that?”
“Well, if he did drink it all, someone might come and refill it and anyway a little bit might be enough – like cough medicine – you only take 7.5ml of that.”
“Exactly!” I said. “So you would be happy to take a SIP and even poor old pessimistic Puddleglum could probably be persuaded to take just a SIP”
“Well, that is what we are going to do to tame Black Dog. We are going to take a three-pronged S.I.P. approach.
S is for Spiritual
I is for Intellectual
P is for Physical and Practical”
“So you want me to take a SIP from the glass vase on the table?”
“No, not really! That had flowers in it. That was just an example.
I’ll tell you all about our SIP plan in a moment”